Facebook a factor in 20% of American divorces: study

Careless use of Facebook has ruined jobs, academic success and even insurance settlements. But now, Loyola University of Maywood, Illinois is reporting that Facebook is also becoming a factor in many divorces today.

The report comes on the heels of an American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers report that shows that Facebook is a factor in one in five divorces in America, and that more and more Americans are using Facebook to start extramarital affairs. Steven Kimmons, PhD, of Loyola University Medical Center said that these affairs start off with innocent intentions, but re-connecting with an old flame to just “catch up” can quickly lead to something deeper.

From Loyola:

“I don’t think these people typically set out to have affairs,” said Kimmons, whose practice includes couples therapy and marriage counseling. “A lot of it is curiosity. They see an old friend or someone they dated and decide to say ‘hello’ and catch up on where that person is and how they’re doing.”

It all boils down to the amount of contact two people in any type of relationships –including online – have with each other, Kimmons said. The more contact they have, the more likely they are to begin developing feelings for each other.

“If I’m talking to one person five times a week versus another person one time a week, you don’t need a fancy psychological study to conclude that I’m more likely to fall in love with the person I talk to five times a week because I have more contact with that person,” Kimmons said.

Kimmons had a few suggestions for couples who are worried about keeping their marriage strong without becoming luddites and avoiding social networking altogether:

  • Keep the home computer in a common area: this way, activities on the computer are open for both partners to see.
  • Share passwords for Facebook: again, this promotes openness.
  • Don’t give false signals or lead on your online contacts: when making new contacts or re-connecting with old ones, spell out at the beginning of the online relationship what kind of relationship it will be.
  • Agree with your spouse about how and when you will use Facebook: how many hours per day? When? It’s easier to keep each other honest if you know these things about their Facebook use.

All good pieces of advice. I’ve got one to add: if your spouse has joined the Facebook group, “Facebook Petition to get a “Cheating” Option for Relationship Status,” consider that a red flag.